Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 9/28/04
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Blurb (GR): Francesca used to think her biggest problem was transferring to St. Sebastian's--a school only recently turned coed: "What a dream come true, right? Seven hundred and fifty boys and thirty girls? But the reality is that it's either like living in a fish bowl or like you don't exist."
But now there's this matter of her usually vibrant and annoyingly optimistic mother Mia refusing to get up in the morning. Her taciturn father doesn't have much to say on the subject, her beloved little brother Luca is anxiously looking to her for answers, and her so-called friends from her old neighborhood seem to have abandoned her. So, Francesca keeps it all inside--her frustration with school (there aren't enough girl's bathrooms and no girl's sports teams); her fear making new friends (with the few girls who do go to St. Sebastian's); and her overwhelming hatred of the smug Will Trombal, who despite being completely infuriating, is also incredibly cute. Keeping this to herself when all she wants to do is spill it to her mother is killing Francesca, but with Mia trying to make herself well again, Francesca will have to figure out how to save herself.
Within just a few days (and books) Melina Marchetta has become one of my favorite YA writers. Just like my other favorite author E. Lockhart, she writes about teens and she knows what she is talking about, unlike some YA authors who should not be named.
Let's take Saving Francesca. The story is set in St. Sebastian - a not so long ago all-male school that just recently turned co-ed. You might expect this book to be quite a romp - this school at first appears to be a paradise for girls with male to female ratio of 25 to 1. But Marchetta knows better. St. Sebastian is a deeply sexist place where girls are either completely ignored or viewed as sexual objects. Neither are the boys portrayed as suave sex gods (as seems to be the trend these days). They are quite obnoxious, sometimes infuriating, and stinky creatures with (maybe) some redeeming qualities.
Francesca Spinelli is one of the "lucky" 30 girls. She is having a tough time. She doesn't have any friends in her new school and acquiring new girl friends out of so few is not easy. Plus, her mother, the rock of her family, suddenly succumbs to an acute depression.
Saving Francesca is about Francesca's journey to find her strength and save herself from despair, to find friendships in the most unexpected places and maybe love.
The book covers all familiar topics from Marchetta's other novels. It is about mothers and daughters, friendships, finding strength in yourself. It is full of humor and honest emotion. It is funny and it is heartbreaking.
I enjoyed every sentence of it.